For a community based on open-minded inclusivity, the LGBTQIA+ community can sometimes be closed-minded and unfairly exclusive. I’m in no way a person who’s easily offended (I very much believe that a little light-hearted humour can act as a better catalyst for progress than conflict like our antagonistic cancel-culture). Saying that…There’s one term that really grinds my gears – ‘Gold Star Lesbian’.
If you’re using the term lightly and playfully with no serious intention to dignify yourself for it, then fine. Go ahead. You’re still a little bit of a douche, though. Just please know that some concerns need to be raised.
There’s been some hot debate about whether wearing a gold star lesbian badge of honour is controversial or not. Some lesbians like to own this top-tier lesbian status loudly and proudly, but other queer women think it’s ignorant and derogative to do so. The problem lies not so much with why lesbians choose to label themselves as gold star, but more with the term’s failure to recognise the grey area around who lesbian women might have had sex with and the varying reasons why this may have been.
Here are 6 reasons why I think you should stop saying gold star lesbian and instead opt for opening your eyes to its potential damage. I’ll also be discussing comments from a Reddit thread titled, ‘Is the term “Gold Star” offensive?’, in order to put the concerns into perspective. The lesbian human experience comes in many shapes and sizes and no one should ever be made to feel like they’re not worthy.
What Is a (So-Called) Gold Star Lesbian?
LGBTQIA+ dating app HER has its own take on how a gold star lesbian can be defined. They’ve described it as “a lesbian who has only had sex with other women and never with a cis man. If they’re using this term, they’re also probably 19.” So – it’s clear from their understanding that a gold star lesbian label actually takes an immature stance on how diverse sexuality can be. It fails to see the grand scheme of things in lesbian culture.
Thankfully the term isn’t heard as much nowadays. It was once a widely used and accepted term in the recent past, for example during the millennial years when pioneering shows like The L Word started to seep lesbian culture into the mainstream. Unfortunately, though, some people still insist on using the label. If you do, HER suggest you only use it ironically. They say, “Know that nobody really cares that you’ve only had sex with women.”
It’s also important to point out that the term gold star lesbian sounds like an innately positive label to give yourself. It suggests that anyone without this badge is immediately inferior because of their sexual history. HER rightly disagrees, “No one is any less of a lesbian just because they have a varied and diverse history of sexual partners.”
6 Reasons Why We Need To Stop Using The Label Gold Star Lesbian
As if I needed to tell you twice, here’s 6 clear-cut reasons why you should stop labelling yourself or others as gold star lesbians. We’re all first-class shining stars no matter your sexuality or sexual history.
In simple terms, the label is judgemental towards others’ experiences. It also invites judgement on your own sexual history too. Putting importance on who you have or haven’t slept with before is an unnecessary and unfair way of certifying your sexuality. If someone is a gold star lesbian, what does that make other lesbian women? The term wrongly poses the question of, “What makes a true lesbian?”
One Reddit user SkittishPony felt frustrated when dating her ex who used to label herself as a gold star. According to SkittishPony, she felt judged and belittled when her ex bragged to people saying stuff like, “I’m one of those rare, much sought after gold stars. I can have my pick of the lesbians because it makes me a real one.” How gross, right? That’s the kind of imperious pedestal that gold star lesbians put themselves on.
It disregards the teenage lesbian experience
I don’t know if you know this – but growing up queer is damn hard. Not to be all woe me, but the majority of LGBT people will agree that your teenage years become difficult to navigate when your feelings towards the same sex become apparent. Depending on your circumstances, sometimes coming out simply doesn’t feel like an option. Instead, the only option is to force yourself to experiment with the opposite sex and pretend to fit in with the ‘normal’ heterosexuality all around you.
HER dating app put it best – “Thanks to the compulsory straightness [that is] reinforced through our patriarchal and heteronormative society, […] a lot of gay women and non-binary people understandably have a sexual history that includes cis men. That doesn’t make them any less valid than gold star lesbians.”
You’re no less of a lesbian just because you kissed a few male frogs first before you found your princess!
It’s offensive to polysexual women
Labelling yourself or another lesbian as a gold star is feeding into the damaging queer purity culture, which is an area of LGBT labelling that separates and devalues certain queer folk according to their history of sexual relations. There’s potentially a lot of risks involved in this pigeon-holing. It further divides us with unnecessary markers – and as a feminist activist, Maya Strong rightly put – “Divided we cannot stand together to fight for rights, justice, acceptance, and peace.”
Unfortunately, the term gold star lesbian belittles the experiences of a polysexual woman (a woman who is sexually attracted to more than one gender) by suggesting they’re less of a lesbian because they like members of the opposite sex too. For example, if two women go on a date – one ‘pure’ lesbian woman who hasn’t ever slept with a man and another polyamorous woman who sometimes enjoys sleeping with men – does that mean the intentions of the polyamorous woman are any less genuine?
Just because a polyamorous woman has dated both sexes does not mean she is experiencing different feelings and emotions than a ‘pure’ lesbian who hasn’t. Glorifying the fact you’re a gold star lesbian doesn’t make you any more of an authentic lesbian, it simply deautheniticates and devalues another polyamorous woman’s experience.
Our spectrum of sexualities is fluid – you may be a bisexual woman who loves dating men and women equally or a pansexual woman who finds all genders and sexualities attractive. No matter what sexual orientation you identify with, no one’s truth or sincerity should be questioned. To learn more of the struggles that every bisexual knows, read our blog.
It excludes transwomen from the lesbian community
There’s no qualification for who can and cannot be classed as a lesbian woman. If there was a qualification, cisgender women would not be the only women who could qualify as a lesbian.
Transgender women are often ostracised from their own community by those who claim to be gold star lesbians. You might hear a gold star lesbian saying they wouldn’t have sex with a lesbian transgender woman because they only have sex with cisgender women – that in itself completely excludes a whole community of women. No trans woman should ever feel rejected just because of their genitalia and the fact they’re not seen as ‘real’ lesbians.
It disregards sexual assault
The term gold star lesbian can be seriously damaging to sexual assault survivors as it ignores just how common sexual assault is. In the UK, it’s believed that over 4.9 million women have been a victim of sexual assault in their lives – that’s a staggering number that should never be disregarded by any lesbian boasting of her gold star status.
The truth is, you never know what some people have been through in the past. Assuming every woman has had the same sexual experiences is simply ignorant. Some survivors of sexual assault might find it more difficult to open up and speak about their past if being a gold star lesbian is seen as a superior status of lesbian sexuality.
One Reddit user named dagalmighty admits she once felt comfortable labelling herself as gold star but has since had a change of heart because of her own experiences with sexual assault. “It made me feel uncomfortable because I had actually been with men in the context of abusive situations,” she said. “Really it just became an occasion for me to be reminded of my abuse history.”
It ignores the fact that lesbians can still have sex with men if they wish
Lastly, it’s worth pointing out that lesbians can still have sex with a man at any time if they wish to do so. Whether it’s a drunken mistake or a genuine unexpected moment of passion, a lesbian woman can sleep with a man and still wake up the next day as the same lesbian woman she was the night before. No historical list of sexual partners, long or short, male or female, will ever change your lesbian identity. You’re a validated bona fide lesbian woman no matter who you’ve shared sexual experiences with.
In my eyes, every lesbian woman is worthy of gold. For some extra tips on successful lesbian dating, read Miingle’s advice.